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‘One House’ pilot project to see agencies sharing information in the best interests of children – Ombudsman for Children

The Ombudsman for Children, Dr Niall Muldoon has welcomed the announcement today (Tuesday 30th) of the ‘One House’ pilot project by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone. This project will mean that services provided by Tusla, the HSE and An Garda Síochána will be available to children who have been sexually abused under one roof.

“Young victims of abuse deserve the best possible services with the shortest possible delay in accessing them. Co-location of services to reduce the trauma endured by children who have already been abused makes sense and is an initiative that I have been advocating for some time. This will mean that children who have been sexually abused will not have to be interviewed by the Gardaí, then repeat their story for Tusla, and again for the HSE.

“The roles of the Gardaí, the HSE and Tusla have always been inextricably linked. However, during an Audit of the exercise by An Garda Síochána of the provisions of Section 12 of the Child Care Act 1991, Dr Geoffrey Shannon, the Special Rapporteur on Child Protection, found that communication between Tusla and the Gardaí is ‘superficial and ineffective’.

“Since the publication of Dr Shannon’s report in 2017, we have been working with Minister Zappone to enhance cooperation and to highlight how colocation can work in the best interests of children. Over the past number of months I have travelled with Minister Zappone, Dr Shannon, representatives from An Garda Síochána, Tusla and Officials from Department of Justice to the Rowan Centre in Belfast and MASH in Oxford, England where co-location of services is up and running. A visit was also made to the Child Advocacy Centre (CAC) in the Bronx, New York.

“We saw first-hand how simply being in the same location, while working in a child centred manner, can enhance the care provided to the children referred. The time has come to put our children ahead of our systems. We must ‘dare to share’ so that the agencies of the state can engage openly with the best interests of children always taking priority.

“I understand the challenges that must be overcome for agencies to work in this way, and to share information in the best interests of children. I commend the work that has been done to get to this point. I am hopeful that the success of the pilot project will result in an expansion of this service, benefitting children in all parts of the country.”